Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids has a special place in my heart, and not because I live across the street. Nestled among the buzz-worthy Cherry Street restaurants such as The Green Well and Grove, Vivant sets itself apart with great service, a quirky culture and excellent beer. They have played host to cool events such as “Cantina,” a night where they showed the original Star Wars trilogy on a projector in the brewery. Costumes were encouraged, the food specials had Star Wars themed names. Additionally, an intense game of trivia yielded prizes like a 10-inch LP of the original Star Wars soundtrack and vintage actions figures.
The Star Wars event made me a regular.
The Awesome Mitten first featured Brewery Vivant in July of 2011 in our 365 Days of Awesome, and we’ve continued to feature their events and beer release parties. As corny as it sounds, we all love walking into a bar where the staff greets you and asks if you want the usual, but at Vivant it’s more than that. In February, Brewery Vivant became the first LEED certified commercial brewery in the United States. On July 30, 2012, they held their first “Employee Appreciation Day” where they gave 100% of the profits from food, alcohol, and merchandise from that day back to their staff (35 hourly and salaried employees). HOW AWESOME IS THAT!? Both of those things endeared them to me, but an event 2 weeks ago truly solidified Brewery Vivant as my favorite brewery in West Michigan.
As “media”, I get invited to a lot of different events, typically with the expectation that I will write, tweet, Facebook, and generally throw my social media magic behind the event, thereby bringing awareness to the businesses and companies involved—and I love doing that! I consider myself lucky that I’ve been able to experience as much as I have since founding The Awesome Mitten almost 2 years ago. Then, two weeks ago, I was extended the invitation to attend a beer dinner hosted by Brewery Vivant to celebrate their new collaboration beer with New Belgium, named Escoffier. This invitation was made to me as an individual, not as a member of the media; the expectation was that I was would attend if I liked, enjoy delicious beer and a 12 course dinner, and mingle with people from Brewery Vivant and New Belgium, as well as other beer lovers in the Grand Rapids area. Not one to turn down free beer and food, I attended. What follows is an account from that night.
The dinner took place at Lubbers Family Farm, located on the outskirts of Grand Rapids. Upon arriving at the farm, Mrs. Lubber welcomed the guests and encouraged us to walk around and explore. Between the beautiful gardens which housed both flowers and vegetables, the various animals populating the grounds, and the old white farmhouse and barn, the setting was beyond picturesque. Originally designed to be held under the apple trees, rain forced the event to the second floor of the barn. When I say we ate in a barn, you may picture stacks of hay and grazing animals with a table laid out in the walkway between stalls. Let me assure you, I did not dine with the stench of manure in the air or Mr. Ed neighing softly over my shoulder. Instead, imagine the type of barn people get married in—à la the
Ryan Reynolds/Sandra Bullock movie The Proposal, only this barn has multiple levels. The first level serves an everyday purpose as a store where customers can purchase some of the Lubbers’ award winning cheeses; a destination I noted may necessitate future visits. After a bit of exploring, a loud cow bell was rung to call everyone inside to eat. Greeting us on the second level was a large rustic table lined with mason jars holding fresh wild flowers and hop vines which created a table runner.
A long night filled with delectable food paired perfectly with Vivant and New Belgium beers lay ahead. I could go on all day about the food, but I won’t—I’ll just provide the menu and pictures. Just know that everything was amazing and those in charge of matching beers to food did their job phenomenally. Chef Drew Turnipseed is the head chef at Brewery Vivant, and if you’ve ever eaten there, you know he takes immense pride in the menu he serves. The twelve courses served for this occasion reflected Chef Turnipseed’s dedication to his craft, and his efforts helped make the night a success.
As any good party planner will tell you, you can have the best food and drinks at your table, but it won’t matter a bit if you have lousy guests.While the food and beer were fantastic, what really made this event memorable were the people in attendance: about 30 guests made up of brewers and other staff members from both Brewery Vivant and New Belgium; beer industry people from Grand Rapids; and a few fellow members of the media. Brewery Vivant had even given away the opportunity to attend the event to one lucky fan on their Facebook page with a haiku contest, proving that this was definitely not some stuffy industry event. The air buzzed with excitement and the conversations centered on beer; the event truly had an air of celebration. The Vivant staff that working the event appeared to be having a blast, despite having to work their butts off running up and down the stairs in some pretty intense humidity.
At different points in the evening, both Jason Spaulding of Brewery Vivant and Alex Dwoinen of New Belgium stood up and spoke, expressing thanks to all those present and raving about their new collaboration beer, Escoffier. Glasses were raised, cheers were made. Time and time again, I was struck by how genuinely happy and excited everyone was, myself included. I felt a need to gush my thanks for being invited when talking to Kris, Jason’s wife and business partner. Instead of just accepting my sentiments, though, she brushed it off and thanked me for being there and all we do to support them.
It’s rare to find a company that values both its patrons and employees as much as Brewery Vivant. If the good food and beer didn’t keep me coming back time and time again, the values of the company would. I’m proud to say Brewery Vivant is in The Mitten State, in my city, and in my neighborhood. ~Alex Beaton, Founder
Know of a company with great values like Brewery Vivant? Tell us in the comments below!